CENTERVILLE — Indian Lake pitcher Madison Brentlinger and her teammates stole the limelight from West Jefferson and its star ace Brooke Mannon here Wednesday.
It was Brentlinger, not Mannon, who threw a gem in the the pitching circle as an aggressive Laker team frustrated the Roughriders for a 5-0 victory in a Division III regional softball semifinal.
The Lakers (25-3) will now play Miami East (19-6) in the regional final for a trip to next week’s state tournament in Akron.
As of press time Wednesday night, the site and date of the regional championship game had not been decided because of a conflict with Miami East’s graduation on Friday.
“To get a win like this feels very, very good,” said Brentlinger, who fired a two-hitter.
“We came out and made contact and leaned on our defense to make plays.”
The pregame hype centered mostly on Mannon, who has signed to pitch at the University of Arizona. She came into Wednesday’s contest with a 19-0 record, a 0.13 ERA and over 240 strikeouts.
But the Lakers refused to be intimidated. Using a gritty approach, they got to Mannon for eight hits and took advantage of some WJ miscues as well.
“We changed up our approach,” said Indian Lake head coach John Stahl. “We haven’t done a lot of bunting this season because we are hitting over .400 as a team. But against a pitcher like that, we knew we had to play more of a small ball game. The girls did a great job of executing our game plan.”
Indian Lake set the tone against Mannon in the bottom of the first inning.
After a pair of strikeouts to begin the frame, Brentlinger singled to right and went on to steal second.
Halle Roby then knocked Brentlinger in with an RBI single to give the Lakers an early 1-0 lead.
“That was a huge confidence boost for us,” said Brentlinger of the Lakers’ first inning.
“We knew it would be our game after that.”
The Lakers stayed aggressive at the plate, stringing three hits together in the third inning to score two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
“I think (Mannon) got rattled a little bit,” said Stahl. “She hasn’t given up a lot of hits and hasn’t been in many situations like we put her in.”
Indian Lake added a run in the fourth and another in the fifth. That was more than enough offense for Brentlinger and the stellar defense behind her.
Sticking with her recipe of mixing up pitches and keeping the opposing hitters guessing, Brentlinger allowed just a pair of singles. She struck out one and walked three.
“That’s what Madison does,” said Stahl. “She has a great connection with (assistant coach Clint Zedeker). Clint is like a pitching aficionado. He does a ton of research and he makes sure that we are constantly mixing up pitches.”
Indian Lake’s defense again sparkled, highlighted by a diving catch from Katie Roby in left field to end the game.
It was a fitting end to a magical all-around performance by the Lakers.
“Every single player contributed today,” said Stahl. “Whether it was offensively or defensively, or staying loud in the dugout, they all had a part in the win.”
Halle Roby went 2-2 with three RBI and Brentlinger went 2-2 to spark Indian Lake’s hitting attack. Hannah Marlow added an RBI.
Indian Lake will now attempt to punch a ticket to state against a Miami East team that defeated Carlisle 3-2 in the other regional semifinal Wednesday.
“I saw the last couple innings, and it looks like they have a good pitcher and they have some other good players, too,” said Stahl. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to keep pitching well, play good defense and keep hitting.”
Indian Lake 5, West Jefferson 0
Roughriders 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Lakers 102 110 X — 5 8 2